Storytelling has become a powerful and compelling tool in content marketing. Each company that has partnered with a cause, has a unique story behind it. How they came together, what they have accomplished and what their future goals are as a partnership. One of the most well-known "cause marketing" campaigns is Whirlpool’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
In 1999, Whirlpool partnered with Habitat for Humanity to provide a range and refrigerator for each Habitat for Humanity home built in the U.S. Their objective was "to create a better community, creating a “collective” impact, first focusing on the social safety net to support the health and wellness needs of area residents, then helping to provide safe and affordable housing to best support youth and education development". It wasn’t until 2004, once they hired Reba McEntire to share the story that their good deeds began to pay off. Whirlpool’s commitment to provide these appliances has not only improved the world’s view of them as a business, it is responsible for their continued growth over the last 10 years.
What was it that helped them improve sales? They were giving to Habitat for Humanity since 1999, why didn’t sales go up then? Because they weren't sharing their story.
Every great story has an epic beginning, so what is yours? How did your company come to partner with a non-profit? In order for a good cause marketing campaign to succeed it is imperative you put a lot of thought into who your company will support:
- Does the cause relate to your brand?
- Do you or someone in your company have a direct link to the cause?
- Is your product/service something that the cause needs?
- Is your cause connected to your community?
These are the types of questions you should be answering when developing your cause story. Why did you choose the cause you chose? You want to make certain people can connect you with your cause in a way that makes sense.
It’s also important that you and your cause are a good fit, and the charity or non-profit is willing to work with you in a mutually beneficial manner. (Partner with someone willing to promote your brand just as you are promoting them. If you make cigarettes don’t partner with the American Lung Association, because they won’t have anything good to say about you.)
Once you have established a strong connection, the story begins.
This is where it gets exciting. What action have you taken? In this section of your “cause story” you should focus on what you have done for your cause. It is well known that donating money is the most efficient way to help a cause, however for marketing purposes, it’s not the most effective. People want to see you doing something, and doing it on a continual basis. This can include:
- Donating your product/service in a way that benefits the cause
- Sponsor a 5k/10k by not only providing the funding, but help to organize it as well
- Holding a business expo or event for charity
- Sponsoring an event or auction and donating a percentage of profits to your cause
These are just a few common ways to help. If your company provides a unique product or service perhaps you can do something more inventive that will really turn some heads. The point is take well thought-out action in order to achieve positive and profitable results.
The Rest of the Story
A good “cause story” has no ending, you and the organization you are working with continue to make positive changes year in and year out. The rest of the story is how you market it. I realize this sounds “sleazy”, I mean aren’t we supposed to be doing good deeds for the sake of doing them, not to impress others, but the grim fact is in order for this to be beneficial to both you and your cause, you need to tell the world what is going on.
Here are the facts. The 2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study states that when companies support social or environmental issues, consumers show an overwhelming amount of support:
- 96% of global citizens will have a more positive image of that company
- 94% will be more likely to trust that company
- 93% will be more loyal to the company (i.e., continue buying products or services)
Plus, corporate social responsibility is another driving force behind how consumers choose who they buy from:
- 91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one that supports a good cause, given similar price and quality
- 92% would buy a product with a social and/or environmental benefit if given the opportunity, and more than two-thirds (67%) have done so in the past 12 months
"Cause Marketing" isn't just a trend. Consumers want the organizations they buy from to care about the community in which they live. Look at your local mom and pop shops, they are favorites among the public, because they are part of the community. Consumers want to know who you are and what you value, therefore it is your job as a business owner to tell them.
If you aren’t working with a non-profit or a charity to grow your business you could be causing your business great harm, because chances are your competition is. Start developing a “cause plan” and put it into action quickly. If you work for a company that isn’t involved, you should be asking yourself why? This trend is not going away. Life continues to “happen” and when it does people need help getting through the hard parts. I’m pretty sure somehow, some way you and your company can help those who need it, so what are you waiting for?